Get the Knack
Released: June 1979
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 40
Certified Platinum: 8/3/79
The great flaw in the éclair of power pop is its gooey center; a sugary good nature that quickly spoils your appetite for this dessert of a rock genre. The guitars may be crashing out feverishly peppy riffs, the drums may be bashing tough little beats that hit you below the belt, but most power-pop bands seem to be fronted by some toothy pretty-boy who wants only to chirp about his keen girl or his keen car or the keen time he and and his buddies had on Saturday night.
The Knack shoots fresh custard into the center of the power-pop éclair by being unrelievedly cynical about all the junk-food topics that fill out their debut album, Get the Knack. These guys are a serenely energetic Los Angeles quartet fronted by lead singer/songwriter Doug Fieger, for whom the sneer is a badge of honor. Fieger's smirk, composed of equal parts contempt and lust, permeates his vocals and tunes. Under his guidance, Get the Knack is a trip through the dark side of adolescence, a trip so dizzying that the group's speed and force nauseate as well as exhilarate.
For the Knack, unadorned drumbeats and a couple of curt, loud guitar riffs are all-important. Drummer Bruce Gary, lead guitarist Berton Averre and bassist Prescott Niles provide beats and riffs in abundance, while producer Mike Chapman follows closely behind, cleaning and polishing the rubble they leave in their wake. Other self-conscious power-pop bands have tried for a simply re-recorded, stripped-down sound (e.g., the Flamin' Groovies, Dave Edmunds' Rockpile), but these outfits sound almost rococo in comparison to the Knack's steely barrage of precise playing.
That's from "Good Girls Don't," just one in a series of songs addressed to young women whom the singer wants to know only in a carnal sense. Fetid ideas like Fieger's are usually the stuff of panting heavy-metal bands, and easily ignored in the blare. But by couching his rampaging id in the locutions of classical pop rock, Fieger makes his callousness inescapable: he practically rubs your face in it.
On a neck-breaker called "Frustrated," the Knack does something more than create scabrous rock: they offer an artfully veiled metaphor for their leader's professional ambitions. Doug Fieger is not the horny kid his persona projects -- this is the group's debut, but he's been around the music biz for years -- and "Frustrated" limns him as an ingenious overreacher just now closing in on his real goal of securing power by whipping up a pop-rock treat that'll have kids begging to rot their minds on it.
I've seen the Knack play a number of times, and it's all I can do to look at Fieger. His rancid grin pushes a shudder up my back. I'm thankful for the existence of a Get the Knack because it transmutes his protean nastiness into merely dirty intensity. Did I say merely? Dirty intensity in power pop this clean and arousing is amazing.
- Ken Tucker, Rolling Stone, 8/9/79.
The Knack was one of the most sought after Los Angeles bands based on the magnitude of its live shows. Producer Chapman, who seems to be everywhere these days making hits for Blondie, Exile and Nick Gilder, makes the Knack's transition to vinyl a successful one. Combining rhythm and lead guitar, bass and drums, the Knack plays power pop with a distinct melody line to enhance the delivery. Berton Averre on lead and Doug Fieger on rhythm guitar complement each other well, while Bruce Gary's steady drumming and Prescott Niles' bass lines play crucial roles in the material's impact. The band's repertoire effectively fuses new wave harshness and conviction with mainstream rock textures. Best cuts: "My Sharona," "(She's So) Selfish," "That's What The Little Girls Do," "Frustrated."
- Billboard, 1979.
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
The band attempted to update The Beatles sound for the new wave era on their debut. A good idea that was well executed, but critics cried "foul" when millions sold after Capitol's pre-release hype (it went gold in 13 days and eventually sold five million copies, making it one of the most successful debuts in history). Get the Knack is at once sleazy, sexist, hook-filled and endlessly catchy -- above all, it's a guilty pleasure and an exercise in simple fun. When is power-pop legitimate anyway? Includes the unforgettable hits "My Sharona" and "Good Girls Don't." * * * *
- Chris Woodstra, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Get the Knack is a must in any pop fan's collection -- albeit from a decidedly male and teenage perspective. It has "My Sharona" and "Good Girls Don't," but even the ballads -- "Your Number or Your Name" and "Maybe Tonight" -- are standouts. * * * *
- John Nieman, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
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